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Technical Updates


Tuesday, 12. March 2013
EU needs to prevent unreasonable restrictions for sustainable public procurement


The EU Institutions are currently negotiating new Directives on Public Procurement. On 6 March 2013, the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament started negotiations to reach an agreement with regard to amending the proposals made by the European Commission in December 2011.


Analysis by FSC and the Fair Trade Advocacy Office shows that the current proposals for one particular article in the new Directives risk preventing public authorities from referring to certificates such as FSC and Fair Trade. They could reverse positive trends in responsible purchasing by public authorities at all levels in the EU, and contradict existing sustainable public procurement policies in at least seven EU Member States.

The new Directives, which replace existing ones, are meant to ensure that public procurement policies are transparent and fair towards all potential bidders across the EU, and that public money is used efficiently. They would allow, to a certain extent, the inclusion of environmental and social considerations, including those relating to the production process of goods purchased. However, the precise formulations create serious limitations, particularly for the use of labels, and they could be a step backwards.

Unlike the current laws, the new Directives would allow reference to labels only if the criteria for getting such labels do not exceed the requirements public authorities are allowed to formulate. For example, FSC has social forest management requirements in relation to indigenous peoples, and more generally towards local people dependent on the forests concerned. For this reason, a city, region or national authority would no longer be able to identify FSC as evidence of compliance with green or sustainable requirements.

A second problem is that the proposals forbid reference to labels launched by organizations that include businesses. While it is logical that the EU wants to avoid recognition for labels that are invented and controlled by companies as promotional tools, the formulations used would also exclude organizations such as FSC. As part of its balanced multi-stakeholder governance, FSC has companies in its membership and these use the FSC logo. The rules of decision-making and the third-party verification scheme that FSC works with prevent dominance by this group of members, so FSC manages to set criteria that balance environmental, social and economic interests.

We are convinced that the decision-makers do not want to exclude the use of FSC and similar labels for sustainable public procurement. But the proposals currently on the table will do this. So it needs a concerted effort to avoid unnecessary and potentially dramatic restrictions, in particular from representatives of the EU Member States (Ministries for Economic Affairs) and the European Parliament.

For the FSC and FTAO analysis and the solutions proposed, see the document below.

Contact: John Hontelez, Chief Advocacy Officer, FSC International j.hontelez at fsc point org